22 September 2008

Barr or Baldwin?: Comparing the Deviations

According to this release from his Campaign For Liberty website, Ron Paul has endorsed Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin. How does Baldwin stack up against the Libertarian Party nominee, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr?

Baldwin is worse than Barr on:
  • Immigration (advocates punitive measures at the federal level for those who hire undocumented immigrant workers)
  • China (too adversarial)
  • Tariffs (very protectionist rhetoric; favors not so protectionist 10% uniform tariff as primary means of federal revenue gathering)
  • Veteran healthcare (panders to warhawk nation-worshippers)
  • Federal involvement in abortion (favors federal definition of life as beginning at conception, which paves the way for expansion of federal government intervention in state-level policymaking)
Baldwin is better than Barr on:
  • Income tax (abolition + low uniform tariff vs. national sales tax + abolition)
  • Social Security (abolition vs. "system of private accounts")
  • Sound money (abolition of Fed vs. "reconsidering the Fed")
  • US involvement in the UN (total withdrawal vs. "[t]he U.S. should push to roll back the UN's functions and slash America's financial contribution")
They are comparable on other issues. Baldwin is definitely more radical generally, if his rhetoric is any measure. I am not sure that either one "gets it." I don't know for certain where Baldwin is on the War on Drugs, but I suspect he would oppose federal involvement in the issue. Barr is a relatively recent convert to the anti-prohibition cause, having been a Marijuana Policy Project lobbyist for nearly two years. Libertarian radical Anthony Gregory said today, "I trust Baldwin more on the issue, since he has never actually put people in jail for drugs."

Bottom line: Both Barr and Baldwin are more libertarian than the socialist Obama, national socialist McCain, green socialist McKinney, or pop-foreign intervention socialist Nader. Both deviate from the libertarian plumbline in ways that are problematic for those seeking to cast a vote that doesn't appear to advocate aggression.

(Position comparison gleaned from Wikipedia.)

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02 September 2008

The Freedom to Import Labor

On August 25, hundreds of armed federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents descended on a Howard Industries factory in Laurel, Mississippi. The fact that Howard Industries is one of the top employers in the area, where nearly 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, did not dissuade the federal government from carrying out the single largest immigration raid in United States history, arresting 595 employees and causing significant disruption and expense for one of the town's most effective benefactors. This mass arrest of undocumented workers voluntarily employed by a wealth-creating domestic company certainly did not help the Laurel economy, but it did allow the federal government to take advantage of xenophobic, anti-immigrant sentiments at large for the purpose of consolidating unprincipled political support behind certain folks in plush chairs in Washington, D.C.

The Laurel raid was not the first such endeavor this year by ICE, which has apparently decided to follow along with the Olympic spirit in breaking as many records as possible. It was only three months earlier, on May 12, that the federal immigration police set the previous arrest record, that time in Postville, Iowa. That town, from which 389 workers were taken, is still suffering from the effects of losing a significant portion of its workforce. The corporate entity involved in that dust-up was Agriprocessors, which was engaged in the mundane business of operating the world's largest kosher meat-processing plant in the small Iowa town. Like Howard Industries in Laurel, Agriprocessors was one of the largest employers in Postville.

On March 6, well before the mass kidnapping in Iowa, several hundred ICE agents raided Michael Bianco, Inc., a leather manufacturer and U.S. military contractor operating in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In that sweep, ICE arrested more than 350 workers, including the company owner and several managers. Again, the purported purpose of the arrests was to discourage illegal immigration and to punish those who hire off-the-books workers. An important threshold question that seems to have not been asked is whether immigration restrictions actually help the domestic economy. As was documented in an August 17, 2008 Associated Press article, many Postville residents characterize the May 12 raid as an unmitigated "disaster" for their town's economy. This result should come as no surprise, since the federal action disrupted an agreeable employment arrangement that benefited the workers and employer, not to mention the local community at large.

A second important question that no one is asking is whether such restrictions have any effect on the various human rights abuses and unfair trade practices associated with illegal immigration. Since the New Bedford raid in March, many former Michael Bianco employees have joined a lawsuit against their former employer, claiming that the company often cheated its workers out of overtime pay and even hourly base pay. While some would make the case that such abuses show the need for further crackdowns, such interpretations put the cart before the horse. It is the secretive, black market nature of this sector of the labor market that makes undocumented workers particularly vulnerable to such overreaching and maltreatment. If workers were free to move on to more promising employment, rather than imprisoned by their fear of government kidnapping, they would not be so willing to acquiesce to unfair employment practices. Indeed, such practices in a free, open market would quickly be penalized, as competitors would take advantage of the disparity between each worker's marginal productivity and hourly wage by hiring away the underpaid laborers. In the labor black market, as with other sectors of the black market, formal dispute resolution is either unavailable or too risky and so disputes are often not resolved in an equitable fashion.

If one's purpose is to strengthen the domestic economy while protecting human rights and promoting entrepreneurship, one must oppose the government's restrictive central planning of immigration. Such planning hurts real, productive, innocent people, is uncharitable, and is destructive of the very engines of enterprise that keep the United States running as an economic power. If we are to be a free and prosperous people, we must have free labor.

(Also published in the September 2008 issue of Dicta, Suffolk Law's newspaper.)

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